I was having a thumb through Kenneth Baker's autobiography The Turbulent Years and stumbled on this about how we got the ghastly Dangerous Dogs Act. (He was Home Secretary at the time.) As there's so much talk of further control orders at the moment I thought it might be worth looking back to how exactly we got the last lot of ineffective solutions... Wonder who that 'dog expert' was? He was a helpful, wasn't he? Is it just me that finds it disturbing how the fate of country's dogs can be decided by a jokey meeting where the pet owner really isn't properly represented at all!
And it seems the KC was a lone voice in calling for genocide - thank god for that!
Becoming The Home Secretary
P 433-4 - subhead Dangerous Dogs
The animal lobbies were very divided on the issue of controlling dangerous dogs. The Kennel Club supported the idea of pit bulls being put down. They did not register pit bulls as one of their recognized breeds and felt that as fighting dogs they have no place in our society. The RSPCA, while having no love of pit bulls, shrank from the physical elimination of the breed, preferring instead that the dogs should be neutered and then die out over time as the breed became extinct. Furthermore the RSPCA used the opportunity to raise its cherished aim of the introduction of a dog licensing system - which I opposed. I was not in the business of legislating to control chihuahuas when I wanted to rid the country of pit bulls. The vets were also reluctant to destroy pit bulls en masse, believing that this went against their version of the Hippocratic Oath. But one dog expert assured me that "All pit bulls go mad". Unlike any other recognized breed they were unpredictable and could not reliably trained. Steering a course acceptable to all these differing viewpoints strained patience as well as imagination, and I knew that whatever course of action I took I would be attacked by one group or another.
On May 22 I announced to the House of Commons my intention to introduce legislation to ban the breeding and ownership of pit bull terriers and other dogs bred especially for fighting. I then embarked on further meetings with the animal interest group which, in addition to the RSPCA and the Kennel Club, included the Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society, the Canine Defence League (now Dogs Trust), the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and the British Veterinary Association. The issues we debated included whether to identify dogs by implanting Micro-chips under their skin, or by tattooing them. This led to humorous exchanges about exactly who would volunteer to tattoo a pit bull's inside leg, and whether the dog's tattoo should match that of the owner. Would pit bulls have 'love' and 'hate' inscribed on each knuckle.
On 10 June I introduced the Dangerous Dogs Bill in the House of Commons.